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No first use.

As we enter the new year, we see that the most likely area of military conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union is Europe. There, hostile NATO and Warsaw Pact countries face each other armed to the teeth with conventional and nuclear weapons.

The Soviet Union has declared it will not use nuclear weapons first in the event of a war with the United States, though it has asserted its right to respond to a nuclear attack in kind. China has made a similar commitment, but neither the United States nor its NATO allies have done so.

The Soviet Union has, however, developed new plans and weapons for engaging in both nuclear and nonnuclear warfare--as, of course, has the United States. Many new small tactical nuclear warheads for artillery, short-range missiles, tactical bombers and cruise missiles are deployed on both sides of the border between the two blocs. The great variety of weapons available makes war seem more controllable and less catastrophic. Thus the resort to force in an international crisis has become more tempting.

This dangerous situation must not continue. The time has come to explore the usefulness of the no-first-use doctrine in preventing a nuclear war. Such a policy could arrest the drift toward nuclear war if East and West would take these five steps:

* First, issue a no-first-use declaration. Such an expression would help reduce tensions between the blocs and pave the way toward serious negotiations in other areas.

* Second, change military doctrine so that it no longer prescribes the early use of nuclear weapons if a conventional war breaks out.

* Third, change the training of military commanders in the field so that they will not rely on early use of nuclear weapons.

* Fourth, move tactical nuclear weapons out of potential areas of conflict so that they will be less accessible to immediate use by design or accident.

* Fifth, thin out conventional armies in Eastern and WEstern Europe to the point where neither side can amass a sufficient force to invade the other. This nonnuclear force reduction would prevent direct confrontations and eliminate the need to resort to nuclear weapons to repel an invasion.

A no-first-use policy would be relatively easy to negotiate. Neither side would have to give up critical military capacity. The changes would be symmetrical. The smaller forces remaining to each side would be sufficient to maintain internal security. This last point should be particularly attractive to the Soviet Union, with its relatively unstable Eastern European clients. Verification of troop movements would be guaranteed by satellites and sensors already in place. The possibility of a surprise ground attack would be eliminated. In case of an invasion by one side, there would be sufficient time for the other to move up the reinforcements, both nuclear and nonnuclear.

Finally, such a move would be a concrete demonstration that the superpowers are serious about avoiding the nonnuclear hostilities that could lead to nuclear war.

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Title Annotation:U.S. and the Soviet Union should negotiate a no first use doctrine
Author:Grossman, Jerome
Publication:The Nation
Article Type:editorial
Date:Jan 12, 1985
Words:489
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